Edge of the Empire is the newest iteration of a Star Wars RPG. West End Games had the license in the 1990’s with their d6 system. Wizards of the Coast had in in the 2000’s with their d20 Star Wars and then Star Wars Saga versions of the game. I am a sucker for Star Wars. I own the previous games and have a copy of each supplement for those games which is a ridiculous amount of material. I have run and played in many different Star Wars campaigns in those systems and some were very successful and others were less than great. My group is now playing Edge of the Empire so this review is a reflection of reading the book and playing the game.
The big difference people talk about first with Edge of the Empire is the dice. It does not use normal dice so one needs to either buy the overpriced special dice they sell or use normal dice (d6s, d8s, and d12s) and conversation charts. There are seven different types of dice the game uses but right now I’m not going to talk about the force die as that doesn’t interact with the other six. There is the Ability die, Proficiency die, and boost die that are all positive helping the character to succeed, Then there is the Difficulty die, the Challenge die, and the setback die that are negative and hinder the characters. Each die side has one or two pictures on them with some sides blank. Players collect the different pictures they roll to determine success and failure and if they can get an advantage or disadvantage. The dice are measuring two different things so it is possible to not succeed but still create some kind of positive advantage for your team or succeed in the action but create some kind of disadvantage. Other games have done this with less dice and less complexity. Once the symbols are collected the players look up skills or combat tables to see what they can do. In hearing groups play it seems they don’t do this they just play it by ear which would be faster. However, under each skill description in the book there are ways to spend these symbols. The other issue is that for most gamers one cannot just look at the dice about to be rolled and have an idea of their chance to succeed or fail. I’m sure by now someone has sat down and figured out the odds with different dice combinations but most gamers won’t spend the time doing that. Gamers I see just roll and hope for the best not having any idea if they should be succeeding or failing.
Character creation is simple and fast. It is a class system without levels. I would have liked different names for the classes or as they call them Careers. I feel anyone for instance can be a Bounty Hunter and have different skill sets for success. While the game allows for a good amount of customization one still has to have the career of Bounty Hunter to be a Bounty Hunter. Each career has three specializations. Extra specializations can be bought with XP and one can even buy specializations from other careers though they all more expensive. Each specialization gives access to a talent tree. Talent trees are a mix of unique and not unique powers. Too many of them I feel get rid of penalties or add a small bonus. The different talents are not equal and some are much better than others. Like many systems most of the talent trees force a character to buy lesser and in some cases useless talents to get to the better ones.
The game uses two types of hit points. Health, which is more physical damage, and strain that is more mental and comes back easier. One problem this can cause is tough characters will have a high health but a low strain so it can be much easier to just attack a characters strain. It is really easy to do as most guns have a stun setting and that targets strain. It is also easy to create a character almost impossible to damage. The game of course focuses heavily on combat but even with just the options of the first book optimizing is very easy. The focus on combat does come at a cost as there are no language rules in the game so it is impossible to know who can understand who even though the game makes a clear point that some of the species offered in the book cannot speak basic. There is also no translator in the equipment section which I thought was odd since it is referenced in other areas of the book. The equipment section in general is sparse. There are a lot of weapons and armor but little of anything else.
The Force is treated like a talent tree that any character except droids can buy. To use the force one rolls a force die but with more sides being the dark side it means that characters are likely to be forced to use the dark side if they want to do anything. I can see a force user coming up with a cool idea, rolling a force die, and then say they are doing nothing because they don’t want to lose their character to the dark side.
Okay, that all was a bit negative as the game fails in a lot of small areas. The dice system does allow for a better variety of outcomes instead of the usual hit miss. It can help players be creative with coming up with different ways to use an advantage. It is new so that helps it and it will be interesting to see if people still like it in a couple of years. The options available to characters are pretty open. Aside from the limited number of species in the book most characters from the movies can be created here. It specifically doesn’t allow PCs to be Jedi but the book does have them to fight which was an interesting choice. Droids do seem to be the most powerful species in the game and it is the only option in the book I would have left out.
In the end the book is Star Wars. It wants to do something more akin to the Han Solo and Lando Calrission books. The Bounty Hunter trilogy and collection of short stories is another good source of inspiration from Star Wars novels. Of course since the game does not want to use Jedi and not much of the Empire perhaps Firefly becomes the best material to base a campaign on. The game does give the group some kind of transport as their ship to emphasis the ship crew dynamic. Edge of the Empire when compared to the other Star Wars RPGs does allow for better customization then the d20 based games and does not look like it will break down as fast as the d6 game. It is rather conservative on character power and that might just be the best thing the game has going for it comparatively.
Chris Gath. I’ve been gaming since 1980 playing all kinds of games since then. In the past year I’ve run Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classic, Paranoia, and Mini d6. My current campaign is mini d6 and we are using that for a modern supernatural conspiracy investigative game. On some forums I’m known as Crothian and I’ve written a few hundred reviews though I took a sabbatical from reviewing for a few years as it burnt me out. I was also an judge for the Gen Con awards (ENnies) six times. Jeff, the owner of this blog, is one of my players and a good friend.